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CUNA taking care of bogus website phishing for info

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MADISON, Wis. (3/28/08)--The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) was taking measures Thursday to shut down another bogus web site that spoofed CUNA's website,, in an attempt to phish for consumers' personal financial data. Such attempts occur periodically and in waves. The latest attempt, with a subject line "Claim your 200 USD reward" was received by a daughter of a friend of a CUNA editor in an e-mail addressed to "Dear CUNA Member." It says the member has been successfully selected in a random contest to win $200 "as one of our Credit Union's member." The catch: To claim the prize, the recipient must complete an online form by clicking a link which boots the recipient to a bogus look-alike site. The form, entitled "CUNA Survey," asks for the recipient's full name, credit union name, ATM/debit card number, expiration date, the card's CVV security code and the card's personal identification number or PIN. A number of errors can help tip off recipients that this and similar messages are phishing attempts:
* CUNA is a trade association, not a financial institution. There is no "CUNA Credit Union" and CUNA is not called "CUNA Organization." Its members do not have card accounts with CUNA. CUNA members are institutions, not individuals. * The subject line refers to "200 USD" or U.S. dollars reward, which suggests the writer is from a foreign country, not from CUNA's offices in Washington D.C. or Madison, Wis. * The message has grammatical errors. * Most important, CUNA would never make an unsolicited attempt to collect personal financial information via e-mail or the telephone.
The best thing to do is ignore the link and delete the message.

Russian president-elects small-biz plans include CUs

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TOBOLSK (3/28/08)--Russia's President-elect Dmitry Medvedev Thursday outlined his strategies for promoting small businesses in the country. Among them: promoting credit unions. Promoting credit unions and microfinance can help solve small businesses' liquidity problems, Medvedev said (Prime-TASS News March 27). He had been discussing whether the government should help cut the cost of capital for small businesses during the liquidity crunch. Medevedev made the comments at a meeting of the State Council, a presidential advisory body. His proposals included promoting small businesses in a number of industries, reducing the time required for starting a small business, and cutting bureaucratic red tape to make it easier for small businesses to rent premises and connect utilities.

CU heavily damaged in explosion firefighter killed

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WESTCHESTER, Calif. (3/28/08)--An explosion Wednesday afternoon at an intersection near Los Angeles International Airport killed one firefighter and critically injured another, and caused significant damage to Water and Power Community CU. No credit union employees or members were hurt in the explosion. The cause of the explosion and the specific extent of the damages are yet to be determined, Linda Heidtke, marketing director at the Westchester-based credit union, told News Now. “We had had two credit union members and three staff members in the building at the time of the explosion,” Heidtke said. “No one was hurt. However, the branch will be closed for some time. “Our members are being directed to two of our nearby branches or to the shared branching system of the Credit Union Service Center system for their banking needs,” she added. Water and Power implemented its business continuity plan in the aftermath of the explosion and “it worked beautifully,” Heidtke said. “Our call center was flooded with phone calls, but we were able to get word out about the explosion to our members on our website and were able to e-blast a message to our members.” Water and Power CU and the Los Angeles Firemen’s CU have established a memorial fund through the Fire Family Foundation, a 501(c) 3 foundation, to honor Firefighter Brent A. Lovrien, the Los Angeles firefighter who lost his life. “Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Lovrien family and the Los Angeles firefighters of Station 95. Their heroism saved the lives of our Westchester branch employees,” Carl Stewart, Water and Power president/CEO, said in a press release issued by the credit union. “We are forever grateful to Brent Lovrien, to firefighter Anthony Guzman, who remains hospitalized, and to the rest of the L.A. firefighters and police who came to our aid,” he added.

Filene report connects the dots on collaboration

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MADISON, Wis. (3/28/07)--Credit unions must trust each other and collaborate to survive--especially now when they are faced with diminishing margins, increasing expenses, fierce competition and declining memberships, according to a new report by the Filene Research Institute. The report, “Connecting the Dots on Credit Union Collaboration: A Colloquium at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania,” summarizes the key findings of a 2007 colloquium of academics, practitioners and consultants. The event was sponsored by Filene in conjunction with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Collaboration theories and firsthand experiences were shared among attendees. Colloquium presenters included:
* Harbir Singh, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania; * Kirk Kordelesk, Bethpage FCU, Bethpage, N.Y.; * Lucie Bouchard, Desjardins Group; * Randy Karnes, CU*Answers; * Steve Williams, Cornerstone Advisors; and * Steven Michaels, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The report cites the challenges facing credit unions today as impetus for not only cooperation among credit unions, but for changes in the behaviors and mindsets of industry stakeholders, said Filene. Key findings at the colloquium included: * Information Technology and trust are critical to enabling collaboration; * Egos exist but have to be left at the door, as boards and executives consider large-scale collaboration; * Vendors need to create attractive price points to encourage collaborative efforts; * Collaboration occurs in phases--not leaps--so short-term, feasible goals are a good place to start; * Credit unions need to consider that risk-averse thinking among boards may be more detrimental than taking new calculated risks, including large-scale collaboration; * Credit unions need to share success stories; and * The industry challenges of the last five years--including rising expenses, shrinking margins, declining membership, and competition for market share--are reason enough to proactively seek change. The report also says that while collaboration is essential, it requires change, which isn’t easy, and then cites Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter’s sequential steps for making change stick. The steps are:
* Establish a sense of urgency; * Create a coalition; * Develop a clear vision and share it; * Empower people to clear obstacles; * Secure short-term wins; * Consolidate and keep moving; and * Anchor the change.

Elevations CU sees unexpected hike in mortgages

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BOULDER, Colo. (3/28/08)--Gross first mortgage production at Elevations CU totaled $13.7 million during February--70% more than the $9.7 million it had projected. The credit union made 61 loans--75% refinances and 25% new purchases. The total dollar volume was 261% more than the total mortgage production in February 2007, said the credit union in a press release. Several factors influenced the change, said Linda Cooper, assistant vice president of residential lending at the Boulder, Colo.-based credit union. Interest rates remained low at a time when many adjustable rate mortgages are due for a rate readjustment, she said. At the same time, consumers are venturing back into purchases because the housing market is favorable for buyers. Nationwide, home prices have leveled off or declined while rates remained low, Cooper added. "Our experience seems to reflect a trend in the local market," Cooper said. Elevations was told by title companies and appraisers it works with that February was a busy month for refinances. The reality is that the mortgage industry is in a state of flux, she said. Consumers are seeking more traditional mortgage providers and more traditional mortgage products. Elevations has a 54-year track record and is a known and trusted provider in the area, Cooper said. So far, the volume of mortgage applications received remains strong in March, with the number of purchase applications outpacing refinance applications. If the historical spring surge in home sales holds true in 2008, Elevations expects another strong month of mortgage volume for March. Elevations has more than $760 million in assets.

Michigan CUs free tax help saves families 5.7 million

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NORTHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (3/28/08)--Michigan credit unions have already put more than $5.7 million into the pockets of Michigan families in the form of tax credits and refunds, with a few weeks still remaining before the tax filing deadline. In January, about 100 credit unions began offering “Just file it! We’ll help. Free tax preparation for those who need it most”--a Web-based tax service. It is designed to help filers claim refunds that go overlooked, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which can be as high as $4,500 for low-income, working households. In three months thus far in 2008, last year’s total of $2.7 million in returns has been exceeded, and the program has helped more than 2,500 filers. “With so many Michigan families facing uncertain financial times, there’s no question this program has been extremely valuable to lower-income households struggling in a tough economy, and we’re proud credit unions could be a part of it,” said David Adams, Michigan Credit Union League president/CEO. “Just File It has helped taxpayers claim refunds and returns they may not have known existed--and this money is going right back into our state economy and helping people stay in their homes and put food on the table,” he added. All that is needed to use the Just File It! program is a computer, Internet access, a Web browser and a printer. The program--offered in English and Spanish-- uses a free, Web-based software program, posing questions to users and offering assistance via tutorials.

Shared Branching transactions in Ohio up 100

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DUBLIN, Ohio (3/28/08)--Shared Branching transactions in Ohio for 2007 were up 100% since 2003, with more than 80 credit unions in the state participating in the network. Branches participating in the network are added at a rate of 1.5 per day, said the Ohio Credit Union League. In 2003, the number of transactions at participating Ohio credit unions totaled more than 800,000. In 2007, more than 1.7 million transactions took place. The numbers include transactions at branches of Ohio credit unions located in West Virginia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. "While many financial institutions are moving from a less personalized way of doing business, credit unions see the need for personal service when conducting transactions, especially in an unfamiliar location," said league President Paul Mercer. "Many members travel leisurely or on business, are changing jobs, or are facing a permanent relocation. Shared Branching reduces the stresses related to these situations," he added. Shared Branching allows credit union members to conduct brick and mortar transactions in all 50 states and in six foreign destinations. More than 3,000 credit union branches nationwide serve as Shared Branching outlets. To locate a Shared Branching outlet call 800-919-CUSC (2872) or use the link.

CU System briefs (03/27/2008)

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* ST. LOUIS (3/28/08)--Sgt. Joshua Eckhoff, a former teller at Electro Savings CU in St. Louis, was wounded recently while serving in Iraq, says the Missouri Credit Union Association (CourierNet March 26). When the credit union staff learned that Eckhoff suffered a serious head injury during combat operations and fellow soldiers saved his life, employees Dana Casey and Julie Foulks organized a collection drive for his military unit. They sent a care package of food, toiletries and entertainment items on March 21 to the group. "We are so grateful for what the other soldiers did for Josh and wanted do so something to thank them," said Casey, an accountant at the $92 million asset credit union. Eckhoff's mother keeps the staff updated and reported he is recovering … * NAPERVILLE, Ill. (3/28/08)--The Illinois Credit Union League (ICUL) has launched a new communication tool--the "Dialogue with Dan" blog. It includes regular postings from ICUL President/CEO Dan Plauda about the Illinois system and credit union issues. Credit unions and other visitors to the site can comment, ask questions and share thoughts with Plauda and other credit unions via the postings. The blog includes links to "what's new/what's hot" on the league's website, news headlines from various publications and links to other credit union entities … * SALT LAKE CITY (3/28/08)--Mountain America CU was named one of the top 125 companies for employer-sponsored training and development by Training magazine. Mountain America was one of 37 newcomers to the list this year. The credit union was recognized for its corporate university and its CU Briefings program located on the credit union's intranet. The briefings give short lesson plans that discuss specific functions, products, services or topics such as Identity Theft. Training magazine has ranked companies for seven years based on factors such as training tied to business objectives, number of trainers, employee turnover, certification and more …